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Republican Party selects nominee for special Pennsylvania House race; Democrats to make selection on June 20

A special election for District 85 of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has been called for August 20. The seat became vacant after Fred Keller (R) resigned the seat on May 24. He was elected to Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District in a special election on May 21.
 
Candidates running for special elections in Pennsylvania are selected by their respective political parties. The Republican nominating convention was held on June 12. Seventeen conferees chose David Rowe as the Republican nominee. Three other candidates sought the nomination: Ben Ranck, Darwin Swope, and Clair Moyer. Rowe and Ranck were the only ones the conferees placed up for nomination. Rowe received nine votes and Ranck received eight votes.
 
The Democratic Party is meeting on June 20 to choose the Democratic nominee. The Daily Item identified four Democratic candidates up for consideration. These include Jenn Rager Kay, Adam Rosinski, Bonnie Hamilton, and David Heayn.
 
As of June 14, 60 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 23 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. Leading up to the special election, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has 93 Democrats, 109 Republicans, and one vacancy. A majority in the chamber requires 102 seats. Pennsylvania is under divided control and is not a government trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
 


Two incumbents defeated in Virginia state legislative primaries

Virginia held state legislative primary elections on June 11. All 40 state Senate seats and all 100 state House of Delegates seats are up for general election on November 5, 2019.
 
Local parties could choose to hold conventions rather than primaries to select their nominees, which meant that not all districts held primary elections. According to data from the state department of elections and local political parties, there were 16 party primaries for state Senate seats and 19 primaries for seats in the state House.
 
Incumbents ran in 14 of the 35 primaries. Two incumbents (14 percent) were defeated, while the other 12 advanced to the general election. Of the 40 seats up for election in the Senate, 36 have an incumbent running in November. And 86 of the House’s 100 incumbents will be on the general election ballot.
 
One incumbent loss occurred in Senate District 16, where former Del. Joe Morrissey defeated incumbent Sen. Roz Dance in the Democratic primary. Morrissey resigned from the House in 2015 following his conviction of a misdemeanor stemming from his relationship with a 17-year-old but won election to his old seat in a special election later that year. He ran for the Senate in 2015 against Dance but withdrew prior to the general election citing health concerns.
 
The other incumbent loss occurred in the House District 28 Republican primary. Paul Milde III defeated Del. Robert Thomas Jr. in a rematch from 2017. Milde beat Thomas by 163 votes, while Thomas beat Milde in 2017 by 984 votes.
 
The following information is current as of June 13, 2019. It is compiled from the state department of elections and local political parties. Final candidate lists will be available following the filing deadline on June 24.
 
The 87 House incumbents seeking re-election in 2019 was the lowest number since 2011, when 86 ran for re-election. In 2017, 93 incumbents ran for re-election, and 91 did so in both 2015 and 2013. The 42 House candidates without major party opposition in the general election this year is higher than 2017’s figure of 40 but lower than in 2015 and 2013, when 71 candidates and 56 candidates, respectively, did not face major party opposition.
 
In the Senate races, three incumbents did not seek re-election, which is half as many as retired in 2015, the last year there was a general election for Senate seats. There will be 22 Senate races on the general election ballot where there is only one candidate from a major political party, up from 20 such races in 2015.
 
Heading into the general election, Republicans hold a 21-19 majority in the Senate and a 51-49 majority in the House. This election will take place using new state House district maps that were redrawn following a court order. These new maps changed the boundaries of 25 districts. Under the old maps, Hillary Clinton won 51 districts in 2016 while Donald Trump won 49. Under the new maps, Clinton would have won 56 districts (seven currently held by Republicans) while Trump would have won 44 (none currently held by Democrats).
 
Click the links below for more information on the races.


Republicans seek to hold vacant Florida House seats

Special elections for two seats in the Florida House of Representatives will be held Tuesday. These partisan special elections were called in District 7 and District 38.
 
In District 7, candidates Ryan Terrell (D) and Jason Shoaf (R) face off in the race. The seat became vacant after Halsey Beshears (R) resigned on January 11 to become Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Terrell was unopposed in the Democratic primary, and Shoaf defeated three candidates in the Republican primary to advance to the general election.
 
In the race for District 38, Kelly Smith (D) faces Randy Maggard (R). The seat became vacant after Daniel Burgess (R) was appointed as the Executive Director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs on January 24. Smith was unopposed in the Democratic primary, and Maggard defeated David McCallister in the Republican primary to advance to the general election.
 
Both seats were up for election in 2018. Beshears was unopposed in his re-election bid to District 7, and Burgess faced independent candidate David TK Hayes in the District 38 race. Burgess received 44,203 votes (66.3%), while Hayes received 22,451 votes (33.7%).
 
A special election for District 97 was also called in 2019, but the primary and general elections were both canceled because only one candidate, Dan Daley (D), qualified for the ballot. Daley won election to the position outright and will take office in June 2019. The seat became vacant after Jared Moskowitz (D) resigned in January 2019 to become the Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
 
Partisan primaries were held on April 9. Candidates were required to file by February 14.
 
As of June, 59 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 23 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
 
Entering the special election, the Florida House of Representatives had 46 Democrats, 71 Republicans, and three vacancies. Florida has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
 


Recall effort against Colorado state Rep. Tom Sullivan ends

An effort to recall state Rep. Tom Sullivan (D) from the Colorado House of Representatives ended on June 11. Kristine Brown, the state’s Republican Party vice chair and leader of the recall, said in a Facebook post, “While we are pulling the recall today to focus on other essential efforts, Sullivan does not get a free pass. 2020 is the year to oust him, with the support of voters who now know how extreme he is.”
 
The recall was approved for circulation by the secretary of state’s office on May 13. Supporters had a July 12 deadline to collect 10,035 signatures to force a recall election. According to recall supporters, the effort against Sullivan was due to his support or sponsorship of four specific bills, including legislation designed to temporarily remove guns from people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others. That bill, which created Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) in Colorado, passed the House by a 38-25 margin with all votes in favor from Democrats and 23 Republicans joining with 2 Democrats in opposition. It was signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis (D) in April.
 
Sullivan’s son was killed in the 2012 shootings at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater. He was elected to the state House in 2018, defeating then-incumbent Cole Wist (R) in the general election with 54% of the vote. Wist, who held the seat for three years, co-sponsored an ERPO bill in 2018 and stated on Twitter that he did not support the effort to recall Sullivan.
 
Four other Democratic state lawmakers are being targeted for recall for their support of the legislation designed to give local governments more control over regulating the oil and gas industry. As of today, none of those recalls have been approved for circulation.
 
Since 2011, 80 recall petitions have been filed against state lawmakers. Nine recalls were successful, nine were defeated at the ballot, 56 did not go to a vote, and six are still ongoing. California state Sen. Josh Newman (D) was recalled in 2018. Two Colorado state senators were successfully recalled in 2013.
 
Colorado became a Democratic trifecta in 2019 after Democrats flipped the state Senate in the 2018 elections. Democrats control the state House by a 41-24 margin and the state Senate by a 19-16 margin. Gov. Polis succeeded John Hickenlooper (D) as governor in 2019.
 


Virginia legislative primaries to decide nominees for November general elections

Virginia holds legislative primaries for both the state Senate and the House of Delegates on June 11, 2019.
 
Virginia has been under divided government since 2002. Gov. Ralph Northam is a Democrat while Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. If Republicans retain control of the Senate or the state House, Virginia will remain under divided government. If Democrats win both chambers of the legislature, they will have a trifecta and full control of the government during redistricting.
 
Republicans hold a 21-19 majority in the state Senate and a 51-49 majority in the state House. 
 
Fifteen incumbents—nine Democrats and six Republicans—face primary challengers.
According to data from the state Department of Elections and local parties, there will be at least 16 primaries for state Senate seats and at least 19 primaries for seats in the state House.
 
Virginia uses a unique primary system in that local parties can hold party caucuses or nominating conventions in place of primary elections to select their nominees. In a caucus or convention, party members or delegates meet and choose a nominee according to defined rules. Ballotpedia has determined that parties in at least 28 districts in Virginia are selecting their state legislative nominee via convention in 2019.
 
Ballotpedia has identified 12 primaries as battleground races this year—seven seats held by Democrats and five held by Republicans. There are six battleground primaries each in the Senate and House.
 
In all but one race, the incumbent is seeking re-election. 20 incumbents faced at least one primary opponent In the four House of Delegate elections since 2011. Four incumbents lost – meaning 16 incumbents—80%—won their primary. In the two state Senate elections since 2011, five incumbents faced at least primary challenger and four of those, or 80%, won the primary.
 
This election will take place using court-ordered state House district maps redrawn by a special master earlier this year, which changed the boundaries of 25 districts. Under the old maps, Hillary Clinton won 51 districts in 2016 while Donald Trump won 49. Under the new maps, Clinton would have won 56 districts (7 currently held by Republicans) while Trump would have won 44 (none currently held by Democrats).
 
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Louisiana voters will decide a constitutional amendment concerning the state’s board of tax appeals in October 2019

The Louisiana State Legislature gave final approval to a constitutional amendment on Monday that would allow the legislature to expand the authority of the Louisiana Board of Tax Appeals. The amendment will be on the state’s October 2019 election ballot.
 
Rep. Stephen Dwight (R-35) introduced the constitutional amendment as House Bill 428 (HB 428). After the House approved the amendment, the Louisiana State Senate amended it and passed it on June 1, 2019, with 35 senators supporting it, two opposing it, and two absent. The House unanimously concurred with the Senate’s changes on June 3, 2019, certifying it for the ballot.
 
The amendment would require “complete and adequate remedy for the prompt recovery” of any unconstitutional tax paid and to allow the legislature through a two-thirds vote to give the Louisiana Board of Tax Appeals jurisdiction over the constitutionality of taxes, fees, and related matters.
 
The Louisiana Board of Tax Appeals consists of three attorneys appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. The board has jurisdiction over tax and fee disputes. Prior to 2014, the board adjudicated claims brought only against the state department of revenue. A 2014 bill extended the board’s jurisdiction to local sales tax disputes.
 
From 1995 through 2018, Louisiana voters decided 185 constitutional amendments. An average of five measures appeared on odd-year statewide ballots, with a range from zero to 16. Voters approved 75 percent (139 of 185) and rejected 25 percent (46 of 185) of the constitutional amendments.


Maine House special election on June 11 to fill Denno vacancy

A special election is on the June 11 ballot for District 45 of the Maine House of Representatives. Stephen Moriarty (D) and Kevin Hughes (R) are running in the general election. Moriarty recently retired as an attorney, and he served one term in the state House from 2012 to 2014. Hughes runs a family-owned embroidery and screen printing business.
 
The seat became vacant when Dale Denno (D) resigned on March 27 for health reasons. Denno had served in the state House since 2016. He won re-election in 2018 with 65% of the vote in the general election.
 
As of June, 59 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 23 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
 
Heading into the election, Democrats have an 88-56 majority in the state House with one vacancy. There are six independent members in the chamber. Maine has a Democratic state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
 


Alabama House special election sees contested Republican primary

A special primary for District 74 of the Alabama House of Representatives is scheduled for Tuesday. Rayford Mack is running unopposed in the Democratic primary, while six candidates—Michael Fritz, Tobias Grant, Jesse Heifner, Jay King, Charlotte Meadows, and Daniel Sparkman—are competing in the Republican primary. The seat became vacant when Dimitri Polizos (R) died of a heart attack on March 27, 2019.
 
If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a special primary runoff will be held on August 27. If no primary runoff election is necessary, the general election will be moved up to August 27, instead of the current date of November 12. The filing deadline for major party candidates was April 9, while independent candidates—who do not participate in the primary—have until June 11 to file.
 
As of June, 59 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 23 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
 
Entering the special election, the Alabama House of Representatives had 28 Democrats, 76 Republicans, and one vacancy. Alabama has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
 


Eleven applicants for Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice position

Chief Justice Scott Bales of the Arizona Supreme Court will retire on July 31, 2019. Eleven applicants have applied for the position and will be interviewed by a 14-member selection commission. The commission will then submit a list of names to Gov. Doug Ducey (R), from which he will appoint a new chief justice.
 
Seven Republicans, two Democrats, one Libertarian, and one independent applied to fill the vacancy. The list of applicants includes five judges from the Arizona Court of Appeals, two judges from county superior courts, a public defender, a county attorney, and two private attorneys.
 
Three of the applicants for this position made the final shortlist for the most recent vacancy on the court. Judges Kent Cattani (R), Maria Elena Cruz (D), and Richard Gordon (R) were recommended by the committee to replace former Justice John Pelander in March 2019.
 
Bales is the only member of the court to be appointed by a Democratic governor. His replacement will be Ducey’s fifth appointment to the seven-member court. After leaving office, Bales will become executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver.
 
In 2019, there have been 13 supreme court vacancies across eight of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Nine of the vacancies were caused by retirements. Two former justices took jobs in the private sector. One vacancy occurred when a justice was elevated to chief justice of the court and the other occurred when a justice was elevated to a federal judicial position. Of these vacancies, a Republican is responsible for appointing the replacement in 11 of them, and a Democrat is responsible for appointing the replacement in two of them.


Texas governor to extend plumbing oversight through executive authority

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) announced via Twitter on Tuesday that the governor’s office had the authority to continue the existence of the Texas Board of Plumbing Examiners for two years without the need for a special legislative session.
 
Some groups of Texas plumbers asked Abbott to call a special legislative session to address plumbing oversight after the Texas State Legislature failed to approve sunset review legislation last month that would have continued regulatory oversight of plumbers in the state. Lawmakers disagreed over the sunset bill’s proposal to move the responsibilities of the plumbing board under the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. Supporters of the bill argued that the move would improve efficiency, such as reducing the state’s eight-month processing period for issuing a plumbing license. Opponents claimed that the lengthy licensing period and other alleged inefficiencies of the plumbing board served to protect public health and safety in a specialized industry.
 
Without Abbott’s extension, the legislative inaction would result in the expiration of the state’s plumbing code on September 1, 2019, and the end of plumbing board operations by September 2020. Abbott’s announcement did not specify how he would extend the life of plumbing regulation in the state.